Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary


The recent release of videos dedicated to the Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary version of Halo Combat Evolved allowed us to take a detailed look at the performance of a game that literally saw the birth of the FPS genre on consoles. Saber and 343 Industries have exhumed it from the digital grave by giving it a new look in semi-high definition to propose it again on the market.

The appeal that this product could exert on any latecomers goes beyond content. The passing of time and the work done in the realization of the following chapters have obviously decreased its value in terms of gameplay. Today's interest therefore concerns the ability to switch from viewing the old game to a sort of remastered facelift.

To achieve this, the guys at 343 Industries have implemented a very ingenious solution that puts two graphics engines on track at the same time: one is the original Halo CE one, which runs the game normally. On this runs a second renderer that corrects the "old age" defects of Halo CE frame by frame, the instant they are rendered.

The new videos confirm the impressions we had at the time of the first trailer: the game does not run at a native 720p resolution but is translated to an intermediate of 1152x648. The effect is quite evident: the qualitative improvement is evident, even without expecting a perfect conversion capable of giving the game the cleanliness of the image of a modern product.

This gallery compares the classic view and the filtered view in "high definition". Just press a button to switch from the first to the second and vice versa to notice the difference. The original Combat Evolved was antialiased, resulting in heavy jaggies that gave the game a very dated look. In this case, a very interesting trick was used to apply antialiasing, namely reducing the game resolution to 640x480 and applying the classic 4X multisampling antialiasing in real time.

The decrease in resolution did not penalize the Visual experience of the remastered version, at least judging by the videos. The edges of the objects, in addition to the beneficial effects of the multisample, are further softened by the application of a post processing effect that increases the quality level of the image to the point of making it look like a native 720p.

The defects noticed in the videos are typical of the antialiasing techniques that we explained in the Digital Foundry a few days ago, but the fact remains that the image quality is quite high.

As for the frame rate, we have noticed some problems on some occasions when the game's execution speed drops below 30 frames per second, alternating slowdowns with some very short still images. Since these are apparently random drops in performance, we hope they will be resolved before the product is released: to compensate for this defect, we find extensive use of V-Sync throughout the entire arc of the videos, without any kind of misalignment.

The frame-rate analysis of the Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary demo by 343 Industries. The developers have specified that this is an outdated version and that visible performance drops will be resolved in the final version.

Watch on YouTube. The work done by the 343 was not limited only to correcting in real time what appears on the screen, but also to adding some details where the image was lacking from birth. In the demo relating to the "Silent Cartographer" map, you can see the complete makeover of the surrounding settings, the water and some fog effects. The foliage was then abundantly fleshed out to correct some elements on the screen that were not in line with the overall quality level of the game.

Grass and sand were also mesh-textured, not to mention the application of high-resolution textures to the rocks and the remaking of more intricate trees. The Forerunner models have also been subjected to extensive finishing work.

A mention should be made in the context of Screen Space Ambient Occlusion (SSAO): another modern technique used in the conversion process. Its use is evident in the marine overview at the beginning of the clip. Although the effect is slightly exaggerated in the cutscenes, it is less noticeable during the game action and helps to improve the feeling of spatiality of the image.


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